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5 Things You Didn’t Know About UAlbany’s History

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Did you know that the Financial Aid office area used to house a bowling alley? Read on for more trivia about UAlbany.


  • Damien was not alway our mascot. Before 1965, it was Pedwin the penguin.

Pedwin was the mascot for what was then the New York State College for Teachers. He was replaced with the Great Dane as it was felt that a new image was needed to reflect the other changes/transformations happening to the school, specifically for the qualities of strength, courage, stamina, and speed.


Source: UAlbany


  • The University established an intercollegiate ice hockey team in December of 1915.

The team played their first games in January 1917. They lost their first two games against RPI and West Point, but won the next four. Due to WWI, the team did not play in 1918. Later the program was disbanded in the Spring of 1921. However, the university still has a club team that was originally founded in 1976. The club team competes in the Empire Collegiate Hockey Conference and their home rink is located at the Albany County Hockey Facility.


  • The university used to have a bowling alley and a barbershop

UAlbany’s 12 lane bowling alley was added to the campus center in the summer of 1966. Students could go bowling to fulfill what then was a Physical Education requirement. But soon, changes in laws meant students couldn’t drink or smoke at the alley like they used to, and physical education credits were done away with. The alley closed in 1994. The Office of Financial Aid is now where the lanes used to be.


Source: University Archives

The university had its own barbershop from 1967 to 2002. Daniel Gatto became UAlbany’s barber soon after it opened. When it closed, Gatto continued to work two days a week at the Turnpike Barber Shop on Western Avenue, and many of his loyal customers followed him. Gatto died the last day of the year 2009.


  • President and then NYS Governor Grover Cleveland once presented degrees to students at Commencement.

It was Jan. 23, 1885 when Governor Grover Cleveland presented the degrees less than two months before his inauguration. (President Cleveland grew up in upstate New York. He never attended college.) In November 1994 a current president would come to UAlbany’s Campus. President-elect Bill Clinton paid a visit to UAlbany when he attended a “Statewide Interactive Education Event”, one of the campaign events for Gov. Mario Cuomo and Sen. George Pataki during their race for the governorship.

Credit: Gary Gold


  • A little over a hundred years ago, enrollment was a total of 670 students.

The first class at what was then called the State Normal School in 1844 started with 29 students and two faculty members. By the 1906-1907 school year, enrollment had raised to over 350. Sixty years later, enrollment was at 7,094. The Fall 2017 semester enrollment was at a total of 17,746 students and over 1,200 faculty members.

Image source: Research project by Professor Allen Ballard. https://www.albany.edu/faculty/aballard/civilwar/normalschool.htm


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